Most non-Indian things about me

Recently, one of my favourite websites/apps has been Quora. I keep reading stories there and one of these threads was a nice one where people wrote about what was the most non-Indian things about them. So I thought of posting something similar here, instead of in Quora.

Race/Caste: I am completely race, caste, colour and religion blind. I believe in everyone living the life they want to live.

Food: I love foods from other cultures and try to eat different foods as much as possible. I also don’t eat the food traditionally cooked by my community all the time, I need to eat different food all the time.

Speech: I am more comfortable in English than in Indian languages. In fact, I usually speak to Indians here in English and only when I am super comfortable with them, do I start using Indian languages

Punctuality: I am very punctual everywhere. If I have to be someplace at a certain time, I am usually there 10-15 minutes before the scheduled time. If in exceptional circumstances, I become late, I always call or text the person I am meeting to let them know as much in advance as possible.

Etiquette: I always thank people for whatever they do for me. This includes my parents, husband, children and in fact anyone I come across during the day.

Clothes and Jewellery: I don’t buy Indian clothes each time I go to India or even when there’s an occasion. I don’t believe in spending thousands of rupees on clothes you would wear only a couple of times; I’d rather spend money on something I would wear again and again, even if it’s slightly more expensive. It’s the same with jewellery. I don’t like wearing jewellery and don’t even wear the traditional symbols of marriage that women in my community wear.

Cricket: Zero interest in cricket or any sport for that matter. I can’t remember the last time I actually saw a match and since here you need to pay through your nose for cable television, I don’t really see the need to spend that kind of money to watch a match!

There’s probably more, but this is all I can think of right now. I may update this post when I think of more things. In the meantime, do check out Quora’s thread (the link is in the beginning of the post)

 

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Recipes: Tomato Rice

Last week when we were bored of eating the same combinations of food daily, I decided to make this tomato rice. It’s a fairly easy recipe and does not take long to make. This is also a good one pot meal as well as something you can rustle up for a packed lunch.

Tomato Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup basmati rice, soaked for 30 minutes, washed, drained and kept aside
  • 4 medium sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 medium sized onions, finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 4-5 fresh red chillies (if you can’t get fresh red chillies, substitute with 2-3 dried red chillies)
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  • Grind the ginger, garlic and chilli to a fine paste and keep aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan and when warm, add in the cumin seeds and let it splutter.
  • Then add the chopped onions and let them fry for a few seconds.
  • Now add the ground ginger-garlic-chilli paste and let it cook for a couple of minutes
  • When the onions become translucent, add the chopped tomatoes and spices and cook till the tomatoes become soft and mushy.
  • Now add the rice and cook for a few minutes.
  • If you are using a rice cooker, transfer the rice and tomato mixture to it and add 1.75 cups of water. Check for seasoning and let it cook.
  • If you plan to cook it on the stovetop, then add the water and check for seasoning and cover and cook it it is done. You may need to check it while it is cooking to ensure the rice does not over cook.
  • Serve hot with a raita of your choice.

Recipe: Bottle Gourd (Lauki) Raita

This is an amazingly simple raita which was made by my helper R. This is an earthy Punjabi recipe, which is made at homes during the summer.  Bottle Gourd is a very cooling vegetable which is full of water (about 92%), keeps your body hydrated, and is also a rich source of vitamin C, A and K and essential minerals like sodium, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. Bottle gourd also promotes a healthy heart by bringing down the bad cholesterol levels. It is rich in both soluble and insoluble fibers, does not only facilitate smoother digestion but also helps curing tummy problems like constipation, piles and flatulence. Bottle gourd is excellent in quenching thirst, and lending a cooling effect on the body, especially during summers.

Bottle Gourd aka Lauki Raita

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle gourd, peeled and grated
  • 3 cups yogurt, beaten
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp pepper powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seed POWDER

Method:

  • Boil the grated bottle gourd in a pan with just enough water to cover it and some salt for five minutes till it is cooked.
  • Remove and drain the grated bottle groud and when cool, squeeze well between your palms to remove all excess water
  • In another pan, whisk the yogurt well and add salt and pepper powder keep aside.
  • Add the boiled bottle gourd and check for seasoning.
  • Sprinkle cumin seed powder and chopped coriander and serve cold with any rotis or rice.

Recipe: Aval Payasam or Poha Kheer

Earlier this week was Avani Avittam, the only festival dedicated to men in Hinduism (or rather tambramism) and since it was BB’s first one, we had to go down to the temple for a special prayer and then the next day was the recitation of the Gayatri Mantra. This sacred mantra is said to be the root mantra and it is said that reciting it 1008 times is said to be very beneficial.

On Avani Avittam, I made my Vermicelli payasam and the day of Gayatri Mantra, I made this easy Aval payasam or Poha Kheer. It’s a simple dish that can be made in less than 30 minutes, start to finish so even an FTWM can make this on a festival.

Aval Payasam/Poha Kheer

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup poha
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-litre full cream milk
  • a handful of cashew nuts
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tbsps ghee

Method:

  • In a pan heat the ghee and fry the cashew nuts and once brown, keep aside.
  • In the same pan, fry the poha till they slightly turn brown and at this point, add half the milk. Let the poha absorb the milk and then add the remainder of the milk.
  • When the milk comes to a rolling boil, let it boil for another 5 minutes until the poha is soft and has completely absorbed the milk
  • Add the sugar, cashew nuts, saffron and cardamom powder and let the kheer boil for another five minutes.
  • The kheer is ready to serve. Drink hot or cold, though we prefer to drink it cold!

Enjoy!!

 

My Singapore Journey

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

Today Singapore celebrates its 52nd birthday and it’s the first one I celebrate as a Singaporean! It’s quite a surreal feeling when tonight I can recite the pledge and national anthem feeling I belong and not as an outsider looking in as it had been all these years. I’ve been a Singaporean for almost a year now, so this is not new news, but when I started writing this post, it seemed a good time to share this news.

My journey to becoming a Singaporean was a long time in coming. S, as you probably know is a native Singaporean and in the past few years, I had become increasingly aware that Singapore was home and not India. I became a stranger in my land of birth and when I land in Mumbai, the feeling was more of an anticipation of meeting my parents rather than a feeling of coming home. This feeling, however, I started to feel whenever I landed in Changi Airport and seeing the iconic airport control tower would make me feel as if I am now home. That’s when I realised that unconsciously over the years, Singapore had become home! So then I started the process to become a Singaporean not just in the heart, but also legally.

My position as the wife of a Singaporean meant I could have become one more than a decade back, but because I wanted to b sure I decided to wait so long. In the meantime, as they are wont to do, processes changed and the criteria became slightly more stringent.

You apply for citizenship online on the ICA website based on the category you fall under and at the same time book a slot to meet an officer who verifies your documents and also pay the fee. If I remember correctly (since this was a while back), I paid S$100 for this process. There are many people applying for this citizenship at the same time as you and so based on the queue, you get a slot to meet the office anytime from two months to even a year later. I got my slot around six months later and try as much as I could, I could not find an earlier slot.

During the verification process, which was quite fast (less than 30 minutes in my case), they check all documents depending on the category you are applying in. In my case, they not only wanted S’ documentation (including salary slips and a letter from his company confirming he was working there as of a date closest to the appointment date and all his educational transcripts and tax records), they also wanted copies of BB & GG’s birth certificates and passports. We didn’t have copies of the children’s passports, but since this was the same agency which issued them, the officer said they will just look up the records since they should have them. In my case, along with all relevant educational transcripts, they asked for salary and work information and tax statements. They only take photocopies of the documents after verifying the original. Once the officer was satisfied with the documents, he handed us a letter with a case number and told us that it will take around six months for ICA to send us an answer. We could use the case number to see the status of our application in the meantime (which is frankly speaking a waste since it always shows ‘under process’ and until you get the accept/reject letter, it is not changed).

Five months after this appointment, I got the acceptance letter from ICA. To complete all formalities before you renounce your existing citizens, you need to do three things – complete an online course about Singapore’s history. This is a simple course, followed by a short quiz, which can be completed in around 30 minutes. Then you need to go on a Singapore Journey. This Singapore Journey consists of going to multiple places (according to your schedule and what is available then). I chose the National Museum and the Newater Plant. It was a half day tour and educational, but I felt most participants were there because it was simply a requirement they had to tick to complete the process. At the museum, we were divided into groups, by age and in my group were 3-4 gentlemen who, from their accents, seemed to be from a single particular country. After the guide took us through the museum, we had to answer some questions in our groups. The gentlemen in my group I discovered could not speak English and were the least interested in answering the questions which were based on Singapore’s history and extremely easy if you paid slight attention to the guide. I kept wondering why they were not interested in their new country’s history and also how they will survive if they can’t understand or speak English, which is the official language here.

The last part is going to a group discussion meeting at a Community Club in the constituency that you stay in. This was facilitated by an external vendor and also had former new citizens assigned to each group (which was made up of people living near each other). Again interesting discussions, but most people were disinterested and there was a lady in my group (again from the same country mentioned above) who could not speak or understand English and had to have another person translate for her.

After you finish all these items, your attendance is marked in each activity and is passed to ICA. Then a few weeks after all items are checked off, you finally get the coveted letter that you, at this point, have been waiting for from anything between 18 to 24 months telling you that you are a Singapore citizen. They also give you an appointment to go down to ICA to finish the process of your citizenship.

The last thing to do is renounce your original citizenship before your appointment at ICA and for an Indian passport, this means filling up a form, found online and going down to the Indian High Commission’s agent BLS International along with the letter from ICA and after a week or so, going down to the High Commission to get the letter of renunciation.

Next, at your appointment with ICA, you need to scan the application form barcode and you get a queue number. At the first counter, they check documents. Since my application was under spouse of a Singaporean, S had to sign a paper that he is doing this of free will and also pay $80 for the registration and Identity Card (IC) fees.

At the second, your thumbprint from both hands is taken for for the IC. Also, retina scans which were just introduced. Then you sign the form and wait for your number to be called to take the oath of allegiance in front of a Justice of Peace (JP). You fill up your name a page in the application form and then take the oath standing up with your right hand raised and the palm facing outward. To paraphrase the oath, you swear to renounce all rights and privileges from any foreign country and also forsake any loyalty to any foreign country and will be faithful and bear allegiance to the Republic of Singapore and will be a faithful citizen. The JP then gave me a piece of paper which is was temporary IC and told me about the citizenship ceremony which will happen later. As I was leaving her office, the JP welcomed me to Singapore!

Next is to apply for a passport which you can do on level one of the same building. You get a card from them in around a week and have to go down to collect it.

The last step is the Citizenship ceremony which for me took a couple of months more. Here the local MP (it was not in my constituency, but another one in the same Group Representative Constituency (GRC)) will give each new citizen their new pink IC (Singaporeans get a pink identity card and permanent residents (equivalent to green card holders in the US) get a blue identity card) along with their citizenship certificate. Each GRC holds this ceremony every quarter and if you are lucky, you get yours almost immediately and if unlucky, have to wait for a few months to get the IC. Till then you just explain to everyone that you are a new citizen and are waiting for your pink IC!

So that was my Singapore journey. If this has helped anyone who is thinking of becoming a Singaporean or even is in the process, I hope this is something you find useful!